A closer look at minor league success


The minor league season is wrapping up for the year, and two of the Nationals’ farm teams (Double-A Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac) made their league’s playoffs.

Rizzo sat down with MASNSports.com Nationals beat reporter Ben Goessling to talk about what that means and to recap some of the highlights of the minor league season.

Ben Goessling: With a couple of the minor league teams making the playoffs, does that mean anything for you in terms of gauging the success of the season? What stock do you put into the win-loss record in the minors?

Mike Rizzo: We’ve always said the job of the minor leagues is to develop players for the major leagues. The one and only level we really care about winning games is the major league level. The minor leagues are there to prepare ourselves for success in the major leagues. Now, part of the developmental process is learning how to win. So it’s important. We never forego developing a player to win a game in the minor leagues, but it’s a nice reward for the hard work of the players and staff to make the playoffs. And again, we’re building a championship-caliber organization, and winning is a part of the process of developing a consistent major league player.

BG: The development process is maybe a little more thorough and methodical here than it’s been in the past. Does that translate to a better record on the field, just because guys aren’t bouncing around as much?

Mike Rizzo: I don’t know about what they used to do before I was here. I have a developmental philosophy in my mind. I’ve employed it my whole career. We were very successful in Arizona with the development plan that I have, and we’re implementing it here. I feel it really retards the progress of players to be pushed and moved too quickly. I think that you have to command a level before you move up. Age and experience level have little to do with how you move. The mastering of a level and a good thorough base for that level is how we judge moving players or not.

BG: Tyler Moore is a guy that obviously caught everybody’s attention this year (at Single-A Potomac). How much did he raise his stock in your eyes, or in the organization’s eyes, with what he did down there?

Mike Rizzo: Well, we always liked Tyler, from the time we drafted him (in 2008). He was a philosophical type of draft, where he had great success at a major college (Mississippi State) in a major conference. Those are the type of guys that we take later on in the draft. In my career, I’ve had success taking players from the SEC in later rounds, with your Brandon Webbs and your Dan Ugglas. When we’re looking in those lower round drafts, those are the guys because they play at such a high level to begin with. They usually know how to play the game and have an ability level to play at such a high college level. It’s almost like those really good conferences and those really good college programs are like a step of minor league development.

BG: You guys drafted him three times. Is that what made you keep coming back to him, saying, ‘This guy’s got the pedigree. Why don’t we take another shot and see if we can sign him?’”

Mike Rizzo: Exactly. Our scouts pounded the table to redraft him and take him because they saw something in the player’s approach at the plate and his stroke and his physicality that they really liked. And again, being from that conference and playing at that level of competition was important to us.

BG: Where does he project from here? Is it fair to say he’s mastered Potomac with what he did there this year? Is the next step Harrisburg?

Mike Rizzo: Certainly, he goes to spring training with an opportunity to make Harrisburg, or better. Where he’s at developmentally, with his offensive game, he could be a guy that could skip a level in his career. Defensively, he’s come a long way, and that’s really the reason he was at that level the whole season. We wanted him to work on his defense and master that. We felt comfortable with the bat all along. But he’s come a long way defensively, also.